Doors Doors

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Not Available Online
Publisher: Firefly Books

Author Statement: Selected by Bob Wilcox ; Foreword by Jerome Markson
Audience: Trade
Specs: full-color photographs throughout, photo credits, photo index
Pages: 272
Trim Size: 8" X 9 3/4" X 3/4"
Language code 1: eng
Publication Date: 20150814
Copyright Year: 2015
Price: Select Below


More than 500 striking color photographs of remarkable doors from around the world.

"The sheer breadth of variety makes it the best kind of coffee table book, irresistible to leaf through and pore over at length."
--National Post

For anyone interested in architecture, history, travel or world cultures, doors have a special fascination. In addition to welcoming guests and keeping out intruders, a door creates the first impression of a building and provides a sense of welcome, security and peace.

This fascinating book contains more than 500 photographs of doors from around the world. There are doors made of wood, metal and glass, doors old and new, and doors polished and weathered. Some were made to impress and to show off the majesty and importance of the building they serve, and some were hastily constructed with whatever materials were at hand. These doors come from and evoke many cultures and traditions.

This wide-ranging and delightful collection provides a wealth of ideas and inspiration for anyone interested in architecture, construction, design or decorative arts.


Bob Wilcox is a graphic designer based in Toronto who has created many books that reflect his lifelong interest in architecture, history and photography.

Jerome Markson is an architect renowned for designing homes with distinctive clean and bold lines. He is a fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and the Toronto Society of Architects and a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts.



At the most basic level, doors are simply a way to enter and leave a building. Beyond those purely functional purposes, however, doors have a fascinating and complicated story to tell. Photographers are infatuated with doors. Writers have used doors as metaphors. Architects, artists and craftspeople have designed and created them in wide variety of shapes and forms. Some are mundane, everyday objects suitable for closets, while others are extravagant statements about beauty, power and religion.

Given all the variety available, the search for images of doors to include in this book has been a combination of travelog, history lesson and design symposium. The period I wanted to cover was from the earliest existing examples to the most modern architectural extravaganzas. I also wanted to cover all countries, all styles and all materials. Being this inclusive is a great idea, but it was complicated to implement. When I researched the earliest dwellings still in existence (houses in Ukraine made of mammoth bones 15,000 years ago), I found no information about their doors. There were no photographs and no descriptions. I looked at images of neolithic villages in Scotland, the Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel in Egypt, built in 1265 BC, and mud structures built in caves in Mali by bands of pygmies in the 14th century. None of the doors to these structures has survived. Wooden doors or skins, of course, will not last thousands of years. Doors of some important ancient buildings were made of stone and rotated on pivots, and later doors were made of bronze or of wood encased in bronze. Stone doors and bronze encasement can now be seen mostly in museums. What I found were images of buildings with openings where doors could have been, but do not exist at this time. My solution for the earliest buildings I wanted to include was just to show the openings where doors could have been and leave the rest to your imagination.

Ancient doorways without doors have a parallel in contemporary architecture. Modern doors can be elusive. While looking for images of modern doors I found that, in a photograph, glass doors can be mistaken for windows, or be invisible entirely. The very common modern glass door functions as a physical but not a visual barrier. You are literally outside looking in.

Some doors are deliberately designed to remain undetected, looking like a section of the wall except for a tell-tale door-knob. In grand old houses, the doors for the use of servants were intended to be unobtrusive so the servants could come and go to perform their duties while being as invisible as possible. Occasionally, doors were disguised as bookshelves, wall hangings or wood paneling to provide a secret opening to a hidden space.

Doors can be made of many different materials, with a variety of construction techniques, but the door is more than just the panel that covers an opening in a building. In order to function, the door must have accessories. The door needs to hinge or pivot. It must stay closed and lock when necessary. Sometimes it has a window, peep-hole or mail-slot, and is identified with numbers and names. In order for the door to function, you have to interact physically with the door by pushing, pulling or turning something -- perhaps a handle, door-knob or lever, combined with a key. Sometimes you have to say your name, or make a sound with a bell, buzzer or knocker. The door could be massive and difficult to move, or flimsy and easily opened. You may be able to see through glass to the inside of the building, or the interior could be a mystery until the door is opened. The sum of these things -- structural elements, accessories, and the way you interact when using it -- creates the character of the door.

I have not tried to show every possible kind of door. Some doors that perform their required function are not very interesting to look at. Most images I saw of cat and dog doors were boring, as were doors to kitchen cupboards, closets and bathroom cubicles. However, I did find a wonderful stone structure for goats. It has doors for the animals accessible from an exterior spiraling ramp, leading into a tall, thin, multi-storied tower.

The door and its context -- the forms, colors and materials surrounding the opening -- provide visual signals indicating not only that it is a point of entry but also some aspects of the wealth and status of the occupants. Doors can be intimidating, welcoming, humorous, pompous and just about anything else that can be imagined and built. Frequently the intention of the embellishments that surround a door is difficult to determine for someone from a different culture or a different time. What could have been the reason for the giant, naked, stone torsos flanking a door and holding up a balcony of the Fünf Höfe in Munich? What was the designer thinking of when he created a doorway in Rome resembling a huge head, with a wooden mouth for the door? What goes through the mind of the people who enter these doors? Should they be fearful? Is the door a statement of power? Are the naked giants there to indicate the sensuality to be found within? Should we enjoy them as art or as humor? Whatever you make of them, what's wonderful about these doors is that they are in public places for everyone to enjoy.

Some doors subtly address serious aspects of life. In Japanese tea houses, the tea ceremony was considered the embodiment of aspects of Zen Buddhism. The doors of Japanese tea houses were short so the person entering had to bow slightly in order to get through. Bowing shows courtesy and humility. The doors at the main entrance of medieval cathedrals were huge beyond anything required on a human scale, made to a size considered suitable for a structure built to worship God. Depending on your point of view, these are doors that create feelings of respect, awe, intimidation or thoughts about the nature of your place in the world. Set into these large doors is a small door scaled to human use.

Some of the doors in the photographs I selected are not in perfect condition. They have not been continuously maintained in order to always look new. Doors can be beautiful when they are worn and show their age, when materials have developed the natural patina created by continued use and weather over a very long time. Many travelers visit other countries to see exactly that -- worn stone and wood, bleached paint, rust and oxidation that with time, change familiar objects into unique works of art.

Sometimes the structure of the door is an opportunity to use textures, colors or building materials that are different from the rest of the building. In some photographs, the door is the only extravagant element on a building that is otherwise much more restrained. On the Greek islands, the tradition is to paint the walls and walkways white and most of the doors turquoise-blue, which unifies the entire village and makes the doors stand out.

I found an interesting door that was designed to deal with environmental issues. On the coast of Wales, the doors and a metal chimney are the only visible elements of an underground house, designed in a way that reduces the impact of human habitation on a sensitive sea cliff site. The door is set into a grassy hill that forms the wall and roof of the house. The feeling this door gives is similar to that of troglodyte doors set into openings of caves carved into rock walls -- a manmade doorway into the earth itself.

My front door is not in this book. I like the color, and the design is appropriate for the building I live in, but it is an ordinary example of 1950s architecture and design. The door doesn't have paper screens or medieval hardware. It is not old or mysterious and has not, to my knowledge, been photographed by passersby. It's unlikely I will change it, despite having seen thousands of more interesting doors in preparing this book. My door is appropriate to its surroundings and purpose. But on these pages I have had a wonderful opportunity to visit other buildings, other countries and other times to see what they made of this fascinating, necessary and sometimes mysterious object. I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I have enjoyed being your guide.

Bob Wilcox

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